I’m not going to lie, running has been a drag for me lately. During the two months we were in NYC, I was using running as a means to get back and forth from work. I often ran four miles home from work in the morning, walked with the stroller back for four miles in the afternoon, and then ran home again each evening while pushing the stroller. Running became more of a means to get from Point A to Point B and less about exercise or enjoyment.
Once I was home again, I was looking forward to just running. But I was bummed when I got on the treadmill and realized I had lost my motivation. It was frustrating.
As a coach, I often discuss with runners how there are times during the year when running will be less appealing. It is normal to fall in and out of love with the sport.
Winter is often a time when running becomes more difficult. If you live somewhere like we do, it is freezing outside and at times too dangerous to head outside. Running on ice and snow can be difficult, scary, and can even change your gait which might cause injury. Treadmills can be a great alternative, but sometimes monotonous.
When you find that you go for several days or weeks without motivation to run, it can weigh heavily on your mind. I have to remind myself that this too shall pass. It really will. Often, changes in the weather can bring new light and warmth to push you out the door. Or perhaps a little break can make things more exciting.
Last weekend we took a trip to Chicago to visit family. We had been locked inside during the Polar Vortex in Michigan, and Chicago had it even worse. Fortunately, by the time we arrived in Chicago, temperatures had risen by 60 degrees and we were able to get outside for a run.
Saturday I logged 8 miles on snowy sidewalks. It was a bit of a struggle, but it also felt so great to be running outside again without dozens of layers.
As I got deeper into my run, more and more runners were flocking to the sidewalks. It was a lovely scene. Everyone looked both relieved and so happy to be outside again. In fact, every time I ran by someone, we locked eyes and smiled. It felt great! We were sharing a happy moment with each other, even if we were struggling with our miles.
With every smile, my feet felt a little lighter. I noticed that I wasn’t just smiling as I passed by another runner, but instead I was just smiling for the sake of running. It was contagious and I felt happy!
It makes sense, when we smile we send chemical signals up to our brains that we are happy. Our muscles relax and endorphins start pouring through our body. When our muscles relax, our running economy improves. This actually makes you a better and more efficient runner. Endorphins make you feel good and can lessen your perceived exertion.
Isn’t it crazy to think that all you need to do to become a better runner is put a smile on your face? Take a few moments to smile during your run and you will likely enjoy your exercise more and even find it to be a bit easier.